Team Austria dominated the 22nd annual Whistler Cup, but a local racer took home one of the event's biggest prizes when the international youth ski races wrapped up on Sunday, April 6.
Max Kirshenblatt, a Whistler Mountain Ski Club skier and a member of Team Canada for the event, was the winner of the U16 men's Dave Murray Award as the top Canadian over three days of racing in the resort.
"It was kind of a surprise," Kirshenblatt said after collecting the trophy during Sunday's closing ceremonies in Whistler Village. "I'm happy to win it, and it feels good at the end of a long season... it's a cool feeling."
Kirshenblatt skied to a third-place finish in the event-opening super-G on Friday, April 4, as well as a 13th-place result in Sunday's giant slalom. Kirshenblatt was also the first-run leader in his slalom race on Saturday, but skied out on the second run.
Austria captured this year's U16 Nations Cup as the top international team throughout the weekend. The Austrian squad's six racers combined to win all six men's and women's races.
"They performed great. All six of them skied well and were fighting to win," said Austrian coach Harald Reiter. "They push each other up to the top, and that's just perfect.
"(Did) I expect it? Of course, I wanted (us to win,) but we didn't know how big the competition would be. Some of the other nations were very strong. I didn't know the Canadians, so they were the big question mark for me... We were just a little stronger."
Norway finished second in the U16 Nations Cup standings while the Canadian team, coached by Whistler's own Rob Boyd, placed third.
"The Austrians and Norwegians had some really strong individuals," said Boyd. "(Canada) may have had better performances in the past, but these were very good performances as well."
Quebec's Beatrix Lever earned the U16 Nancy Greene Award as the top Canadian female, highlighted by her fourth-place finish in super-G.
"I'm very, very happy," said Lever, who was competing in her first Whistler Cup. "This year, we really focused on super-G training and I think that really helped. I just came in with the right mindset."
Laura Swaffield and Katie Fleckenstein each had two top-20 finishes during the weekend to lead the local club's results.
Whistler's Kasper Woolley was the top Canadian in the men's U16 GS on Sunday by finishing 10th.
"I knew I could do it and I just went for it and pulled it all together today," said Woolley.
In U14 competition this weekend, Japan secured the Nations Cup title, edging the second-place team from Ontario and third-place B.C. squad.
Ontario skiers Will Kornya and Madeline Sullivan were the winners of the U14 Dave Murray and Nancy Greene awards, respectively.
Whistler's Ella Renzoni put together a strong weekend of results in U14 girls' races, including a runner-up finish in giant slalom on Saturday.
"My goal for the season was to win a Whistler Cup race. I didn't achieve that, but I did have three top-10 finishes, so that was great," said Renzoni.
Jack Forsyth had the top local finish of the weekend in U14 boys' racing with his fifth-place result in Sunday's GS.
Full results are posted at www.live-timing.com. See Pique on Thursday, April 10, for a complete wrap of this year's Whistler Cup.